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This is BBC World News Today with me Zeinab Badawi.
Could France be about to lose its triple A credit rating? President
Sarkozy holds crisis talks with ministers, as fears mount that the
downgrade could place further pressure on the eurozone.
Is the Pakistani government on a dangerous collision course with the
military? Growing public tension but government ministers play down
talk of a political crisis. you're referring to the recent
whatever is going on in the country. It will not affect. In democracy we
are in transition. So ups and downs will be there.
Day five of protests in Nigeria over the scrapping of the fuel
subsidy. Now the government makes an offer to the unions. Will it be
enough? Also coming up in the programme,
the increasing danger posed by space debris. The Russian space
craft Phobos-Grunt should come crashing back to earth this weekend
Hello and welcome. The value of the euro has fallen
with more bad news for the eurozone. France is braced this evening for
the possibility that its credit rating may be downgraded by the
Standard & Poor's agency. Nicolas Sarkozy is reported to be in crisis
talks with his ministers ahead of expected announcement. Fears over
the eurozone debt crisis have also been heightened with talks between
Greece and the banks it owes money to breaking down. Our chief
economics correspondent Hugh Pym reports.
2011 was the year to the good for the eurozone and the health of the
single currency. Riots increase other government was facing
crippling debts and tried to impose spending cuts and tensions over how
to safeguard -- safeguard the euro but another blow is looming, the
downgrading of France's credit rating. If they are downgraded, it
will raise the cost of borrowing at France has to pay to markets. Above
Germany and the UK, which have triple-A ratings, and it will be
more difficult to rescue crew eurozone, although it may still be
possible. Here are the key figures from the French economy which have
worried the markets. Government debt is 90% this year. The deficit,
new borrowing, 5.5%. The French government is currently having to
pay more than 3% to borrow, while at the UK is below 2%. If France's
credit rating is downgraded, the impact could be as much political
as economic. Some see the triple A rating as a badge of national
prestige, and are losing it, critics will argue could be seen as
a major blow to President Sarkozy. In a year when he seeking re-
election. Fears that France might be downgraded emerge before
Christmas as Nicolas Sarkozy's relations with David Cameron cold.
They criticised the UK finances. don't want to be given any lessons.
The economic situation in Great Britain is very worrying and from
an economic standpoint, we would prefer to be French and British.
But its front which is firmly under a financial spotlight this evening.
-- France. Speculation that one up ratings agency will make an
announcement, and with talks with private investors and the Greek
government over how to manage the burden having broken down, a
familiar cloud is hovering over the eurozone.
Let's talk more about this. Matthew price joins us. Does this look like
it's going to happen? It's the sense we getting from French
government officials. In the last few minutes, the French agency, AFP,
is reporting yes, indeed, France is being downgraded by Standard & Poor
and it fits with the general assumption, the general words
coming out of Standard & Poor, the ratings agency, in the last few
months, but they put France on a downgrade and add some point,
expected they would do this. Yes, it looks like this is happening.
Matthew, it's not just the fact it's been downgraded. It is the
extent, the amount by which it has downgraded, which is also important
for country. Absolutely. If France get downgraded at the next couple
of hours, by one are not, it is manageable. It is difficult
politically for President Sarkozy. And economically, it will almost
certainly make a change. It will force up the French borrowing rate.
It to probably wouldn't be catastrophic. It did get downgraded
by two notches, you start to get into more uncertain territory, not
just for France, but remember they are one of the key economic backers
of the eurozone's current temporary rescue fund, but BFSS, and France
is the second biggest backer of that fund. Germany is the biggest.
That fund has so far also had a triple A rating. There are those
concerned in Brussels tonight that if France gets downgrade it, so too
will the euro zones temporary bail- out fund, and therefore that, too,
will pile on the pressure. I can say that the wires have confirmed,
according to the French finance minister, France indeed has lost
its triple-A credit. That is indeed quite a blow to the country. It's
not just an economic matter, but huge political tests for President
Sarkozy. Ahead of this, but it's going to have shockwaves throughout
the eurozone that such a major economy in the eurozone has lost
its triple-A rating. Absolutely. The second biggest economy in the
eurozone. One of the biggest economies in the world. Also, not
just economically important within the eurozone, but vitally
politically important as well. President Sarkozy and Angela Merkel
had basically been a leading the way in terms of how Europe gets out
of this mess. I think, what has been interesting, the French have
been trying to bring in austerity measures that they felt they could
get past the public in the run-up to the French elections in April
and May. Measures they felt could get past the French public which
would not be terribly unpopular, which wouldn't necessarily stop
President Sarkozy getting re- elected but the same time, would
satisfy the market and it clear I have not satisfied one of the
ratings agencies. Matthew, thank you very much, with that news that
France has lost its triple A credit rating.
The political temperature in Pakistan is nearing boiling point.
On Monday the ruling party faces a confidence vote. The prime minister
Yusuf Raza Gilani told parliament it had to choose between democracy
and dictatorship. A series of public disputes has brought
relations between the government and the military to an all-time low.
The Supreme Court could also get involved, with a deadline looming
for the government to re-open political corruption cases. Here's
A nation gripped by a political crisis. They have fallen heroes.
The funerals today for two Pakistani policemen. Killed by
militants. As well as battling that enemy, the government here is
locked in conflict with the army and the Supreme Court. At
Parliament, another crisis session. But Pakistan's Interior Minister
insists the government will serve out its full term until 2013.
democracy, we are in a transition. Ups and downs will be there. Yes,
we had a bumpy flight but we will land in a nice way. Aren't you
having a real crisis now with the army? Open speculation of a coup.
would not say crisis, no. A difference of opinion. You can't
say there is a distress going on. That we are not on the same page.
Why are their statement between you and the army so hostile? I think
everybody has a right to explain their position so let's put it in
the normal way. Do you think this government will be in position next
week? I say, in the 2013. Pakistan's Interior Minister is
sending a message that the tension can be diffused and he is adamant
the government will survive, but with the army and government
engaging in Opal verbal warfare, some here are writing of this
administration and are predicting Inside Parliament, an impassioned
speech from Prime Minister Gilani. We have made mistakes, he said.
That doesn't mean a democracy should survive. If the worst comes
to the worst, we will go before the Are the army is on the warpath
because of a memo sent to the Americans last May. Asking for help
to rein in the generals. Pakistan's president of denies he was behind
it. The tanks have not been sent in this time. But experts believe the
army will try to get the government out by other means. Pakistan
Supreme Court might do the job for it. It could disqualify the Prime
Minister over a long-running corruption case. Judges will
consider that on Monday. Joining me now from Oxford is
Professor Ifitikhar Malik, a leading analyst on Pakistani
politics. Collision course clearly between the ruling party and the
military. Do you suppose that we are talking about a true
confrontation here? I think there is an element of confrontation but
I don't think there will be a military coup. The army generals
Pope control Pakistan for most of its history, will try to neutralise
opposition through their own technical weaknesses which are
exposed when Osama bin Laden was murdered. And Iran incident
happened, near the Pakistani naval base. And it became a vulnerable to
attack from the Libyans. And politicians in the government will
try to assert their authority, their control over a military
institution, so there have been imbalances within Pakistan, the
military has been calling the shots. The military does not want to take
the back seat now. Politicians have of course made mistakes, but sadly,
in Pakistan history, which is repeated, I think all the three
major institutions, judiciary, army and the government, have to cool
down the Temmerman, sit back and develop a consensus. We have a vote
of confidence next week. The likely it is early elections.
possibility is the opposition will come around to support the
Government because if this government goes, the People's Party
goes, the opposition will also go in the sense that the military will
then commander position and then it might be another few years before
another political government is established, so politics will be
the loser and the judiciary, and the media and civil society will be
losers, so let's hope history does not repeat itself. Let the system
work, let the system and rectify its own problems. And that the
politicians sit together and resolve these issues through the
parliament. And I think the judiciary should other politicians
resolve this conflict. Thank you very much. The Nigerian government
says its maiden of the to the trade unions after five days of strikes
over the scrapping of a petrol subsidy. The protests have been
suspended for two days to allow more talks with the government.
Tens of thousands of Nigerians have come out in protest since Monday
after the removal of the fuel subsidy led to petrol prices more
than doubling. Mike Wooldridge looks at the challenges facing the
government of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The immediate crisis is over the price of fuel. Nigerians are
protesting against the removal of subsidies that at long kept prices
low. The savings intended for badly needed road improvement and other
public projects. But prices more than doubled overnight. Leading
other costs to soar, as well. For many people, it's the last straw
for the fuel subsidy represent a contribution to daily lives in a
very difficult economic situation for a lot of Nigerians. Removing
the subsidy is something which is seen to simply be quite unfair and
it puts pressure on attack situation for Nigerians. But these
protests come amid an even more serious crisis once again
highlighted the North-South divide. In Africa's most populous nation.
This is the leader of a radical Islamist groups, with its roots in
the Muslim north. Its actions have led some Christians in the north to
flee southwards to where Christians are in the majority. They are
attacking and trying to provoke a tension between Muslims and
Christians for that they have recently attacked churches, killing
Christians for the as falling to Al-Qaeda, I don't think they have
got a link. But I think it is very convenient for them and the
government to claim that there is a link. A politically orchestrated
violence is nothing new but over the last year, and rest has focused
on the North Pole. These are the places where the group has carried
out attacks and amid growing concerns about retaliation,
violence has occurred in the south. Five people were killed in a mosque.
New troubles all round for a nation that wants to be recognised for its
huge economic potential, not least because of its oil. Nigeria has
been pushed to the brink many times I have been joined in the studio by
the Nigerian novelist and journalist, Mohammed Umar. These
talks going on between the trade unions and the government, do you
think we're going to see some kind of compromise emerged, that the
government will have to shift a bit? I don't think so. I think this
is the mother of all deadlocks. For the first time in history we have a
position where the majority of the people are saying they don't like
what is happening and the government is digging in. Even if,
assuming that the Trade Union Congress and the Nigerian Labour
Congress agree to one or two things come with the government, I don't
think the mass protest will stop, so it is one thing for the trade
union representatives to agree with the government, it is another thing
for the people on the ground to stop protesting because if people
started protesting before the trade union representatives took over the
leadership. And the person taking the flak, very much President
Goodluck Jonathan. They have even taken to calling him back look
Jennison in Nigeria. Yes, it is rather unfortunate but someone has
to take the blame. The level of corruption in Nigeria is
unbelievable and it is not the corruption, it is the weird is
displayed. There is no shame in the way they display the corruption.
For example in the 2012 budget they said they would allocate 6.5
million for food, for the President and the Vice President. It is
obscene. So this is tapping into that is content. If the instability
were to get further out of hand, could the army moving? That is an
option, and dangerous scenario because something has to be done.
Whatever happens in Nigeria will not remain in Nigeria. It is a big
country, it cannot afford to fail. 150 million people, something has
to be done to stabilise the situation. Mohammed Umar, thank you
for coming to talk to us about the situation in your native Nigeria.
Staying in Africa, in South Sudan, dozens of people are still being
killed in tribal clashes and thousands are being displayed --
displaced in the latest violence more than 50 people, mostly women
and children, were killed on Wednesday in continuing tit-for-tat
attacks and cattle raids between the Lou Nuer and Murle people in
the state of Jonglei. Many people have fled the violence and are in
urgent need of humanitarian assistance. We report from
neighbouring nine -- neighbouring Nairobi.
These are the people caught in the middle of South Sudan's cycle of
violence, slowly returning home after fleeing for their lives when
the tribe burnt their homes and stole their cattle. The aid
agencies are left to pick up the pieces but with an estimated 60,000
people living in camps or hiding in the bush, officials admit they are
struggling to cope. Today we are operating four helicopters taking
food into Gumarok, Tibor, to assist the population. It is not enough.
We need more and much bigger helicopters that will be able to do
this more efficiently. Ethnic tensions over cattle and territory
in the region have existed for decades but the most recent
violence started last August when Murle fighters raided Lou Nuer
villages, killing 600 people, abducting children and stealing
25,000 cattle. The lunar and retaliated in late December and
early January with as many as 6,000 men attacking the main Murle town
of Tibor. Extra UN peacekeepers and soldiers were rushed to the Urdd --
to the area and it was declared a disaster zone. In the latest
attacks the Murle struck back, raising -- raiding Lou Nuer
villages killing at least 50 people and making off with thousands of
cattle. All the violence is happening in a country which is
just six months old. There was euphoria in March in South Sudan
when it broke away from the north after years of civil war but it was
a messy divorce and coursed tension with the North, which still exists,
mainly over territory, division of money. The government of South
Saddam must work hard to avoid a return to civil war but it must
build bridges between the rival ethnic groups to keep this fragile
country together -- South Sudan. The Chinese speaking world is
gearing up for major political change this year. More than 60
years on from the civil war that split China and Taiwan, both are
facing leadership changes. In the autumn China will see its Communist
Party select a new generation of leaders behind closed doors but
just 100 miles offshore, Taiwan holds open and democratic elections
this weekend. Many in China are watching closely as Damian
Grammaticas reports from the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.
Soaring above Taipei, the second tallest building in the world,
built to put Taiwan, so long overshadowed by China, on the map.
Today, its observatory is full of Chinese tourists. Curious about
this island their country claims. Today, what they see is this, and
noisy campaign, democracy happening in the Chinese world just 100 miles
from China's shores. TRANSLATION: I have seen many banners and flags.
It looks really interesting. We don't have anything like this in
China. Taiwan has only just begun welcoming Chinese tourists after
decades of separation. Two million came last year. This is Asia's
biggest store. Christian Dior is building the biggest store in the
world here, targeting the visitors and China's new spending power.
Taiwan's president says the island has to open to China, to recognise
its economic rise. He has made ending decades of its hostility his
priority. What is the importance of that, of building closer relations
with China? Peace, peace. PCS says, and prosperity. But at what price?
The rise of China is leading to some really difficult questions for
Taiwan. Does this island have any choice but to hitch its economic
future to its giant neighbour? Well that ensure Taiwan's continued
prosperity, or will it threatened the island's hard-won freedoms?
Taiwan's opposition fears China could dominate Taiwan, threaten its
democracy. China is a source of uncertainties for the region and
for Taiwan as well. Since the civil war split, the two have taken very
different paths. China insists it will take Taiwan by force if
necessary. In China the political system remains frozen. President Hu
Jintao will this way -- will this year make way for a new Communist
leader to be chosen by the party in secret. But can Taiwan influence
China? Yes, it can, says this man, who did -- Hutu decades ago was a
leader of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.
I have been hearing this so much from Chinese tourists, who say when
will the day come for us so that we can choose? -- our own leaders?
Communist Party says China is not ready or suited for democracy.
Taiwan hopes its example can prove otherwise. Many here fear the
independence they now enjoy could be crushed asked China rises.
It was supposed to be heading to Mars to take rock samples from one
of the Red Planet's moons but some time this weekend the Russian
spacecraft -- spacecraft Phobos- Grunt is expected to come crashing
back to earth following a serious malfunction. No one knows when it
will return, or more importantly, where it will hit, but its imminent
re-entry has highlighted the increasing danger of space debris
as undersides correspondent David Shukman reports. -- as a science
correspondent reports. A swarm of dots circling the Earth,
15,002 are all rockets and other junk. An orbiting rubbish dump
created after half-a-century of space flight. Last November a
Russian launch added yet another piece of debris. The mission was
meant to fly to Mars. We did get off the ground but something went
wrong and now the Russians believe their spacecraft will crash back
into the Indian Ocean. But no one can be sure. From experience it is
difficult, almost impossible at this stage, to predict exactly when
and where the object will come in. To be able to say at this stage you
have to control the aircraft and we don't believe they have control of
it. So what will happen to the spacecraft? It is orbiting every 90
minutes between 51 degrees north and 51 degrees south, so it could
land anywhere in between, most likely in the ocean. But the zone
just includes southern England below the M4 corridor. Most of the
spacecraft will burn up as it falls to earth but some components matter
more than others. The tanks, filled with fuel for the long journey to
Mars, should leak and burn off long before they reach the surface. The
moment European spacecraft blew up while falling to earth. This was
meant to happen and generally there is very little risk to anyone on
the ground. The bigger danger is space junk damaging the satellites
that we depend on. Anything, even as small as a cherry, going up
17,500 miles an hour, which they are going around in orbit, but can
be similar to an explosion of a hand grenade right next to your
satellites and even a small pieces caused problems. The Russian
spacecraft was designed to land on Bob Ross, and of Mars. -- on Phobos.
It would have been a scientific triumph. Instead the world is now
waiting for a crash. Let's hope that debris lands in the
ocean. Now the main stories, which has
been confirmed. While we have been on air. The French Finance Minister
has confirmed that his country has lost its triple-A credit rating,
the Standard and Poor's agency has cut fans's rating by an entire
point to just do Belem. -- France. The finance minister has said there
will be no new austerity measures despite the downgrade. Very
disappointing news for France, Justin. Next, the weather. From me,
Zeinab Badawi, goodbye and enjoy Hello, you got the idea today. Keep
the thought in your head. It is the sort of weather we will get through
the weekend. A widespread frost tonight but tomorrow the first
lifts and we will get spells of bright winter sunshine in most
areas. High pressure dominating the scene across the UK, keeping the
mild Atlantic air at bay. It will be the case over the weekend and
into the early part of next week. The frost clears. There will be fog
which will take a little time to clear that it should eventually go.
Patchy cloud at times in the west of the UK but across northern
England and the eastern side of England, long spells of sunshine
into the afternoon. Not particularly warm. Six Celsius in
London, near the January average. More of a breeze across south-west
London -- across south-west England and Wales, just drifting some cloud
through. Keeping temperatures higher, seven or eight Celsius.
Across mid-Wales, temperatures stay below freezing. The Northern
Ireland, not a bad day, the cloud will break up to allow spells of
sunshine through but the breeze will make it feel chilly, coming in
from the south-east. Six Celsius. Cloud across western Scotland and
across the higher ground temperatures remaining below